International Health Care Systems

Dentist Shortage in Britain

British teeth are not famed for their beauty.  There are countless jokes about British teeth on television and at comedy clubs.  Even in Mexico, protruding, discolored and generally unfortunate teeth are known as “dientes de ingles.”

A serious shortage of dentists in England, however, is causing this stereotype to become reality.   The New York Times (“In a dentist shortage…“) reports that:

“You could argue that Britain has not seen lines like this since World War II,” said Mark Pritchard, a member of Parliament who represents part of Shropshire, where the situation is just as grim. “Churchill once said that the British are great queuers, but I don’t think he meant that in connection to dental care.”

Why are these shortages absent occur in the U.S. market in the long-run?  Since providers are free to charge any amount for their services, a short-run dentist shortage would allow the current stock of dentists to raise their prices temporarily.  As dentist’s earnings increase, more individuals will be attracted to the field of dentistry. The supply of dentists will eventually increase and price will be driven down.  Shortages can occur in the U.S. since the government–through Medicare and Medicaid–control prices for a significant portion of medical expenses; nevertheless the government involvement in American medicine is certainly more ‘hands-off’ than its European counterpart.